Shaheen Amendment to Target Wasteful Catfish Inspection Program for Elimination Added to Agriculture Budget Bill

Shaheen Energy Efficiency Provisions Also Approved by Appropriations Committee

July 16, 2015

(WASHINGTON, DC) – An amendment to target for elimination a wasteful and duplicative catfish program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offered by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) was approved by the Senate Committee on Appropriations today. The amendment directs the USDA to review wasteful duplicative programs within the agency, which includes the USDA program that’s charged with inspecting and grading catfish, despite the Food and Drug Administration also having an inspection program for seafood.

 “The USDA’s duplicative catfish program is an unnecessary waste of millions of dollars a year and needs to be eliminated,” said Shaheen. “In addition to wasting taxpayer dollars, this program is also harmful to Granite State businesses. This amendment supports USDA ending this completely unnecessary program.”

The USDA has warned that this program may cost as much as $15 million a year to operate and has already cost $20 million without having inspected a single catfish. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, which evaluates risk for wasteful spending, has recommended eliminating the program in nine separate reports, calling it “duplicative” and “high-risk” for waste, fraud, and abuse.

During a hearing in the Small Business Committee earlier this year, Senator Shaheen highlighted the impact creating a duplicative and wasteful catfish inspection program at the USDA would have on High Liner Foods, a seafood company with operations based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that employs more than 300 Granite Staters. As a seafood processor, High Liner currently deals with inspections from the FDA. The impending creation of a new inspection program just for catfish is preventing the company from expanding its offerings and operations, as the costs of complying with two different inspection regimes is prohibitive. A letter from High Liner is available here.

In today’s markup, Shaheen also included two amendments that will strengthen and improve energy efficiency in USDA’s Rural Development program. The first encourages USDA to establish energy efficiency standards for rental Rural Housing Programs, which will reduce costs for elderly, disabled and low-income residents living in rural housing. The second amendment enhances coordination among USDA Rural Development offices regarding energy efficiency programs. This amendment will make better use of existing energy efficiency programs, which support renewable energy purchases and retrofits in rural communities. Both provisions will help improve air quality and promote safe and healthy living for rural communities, all while saving taxpayers money. Shaheen is a leading advocate for energy efficiency in the Senate. Earlier this year, her bipartisan targeted energy efficiency bill was signed into law by President Obama.